The Distance Between You & Me

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Title: Distance Between You & Me

Fandom(s): Person of Interest/Stargate

Relationship: John Reese/Joss Carter

Summary: Joss Carter has never been good at toeing the party line, probably why she and John get along so well. So when a Navy Chaplain delivers the news of her cousin Aiden Ford’s death and informs her of the pending treason charges, there was no way Joss wasn’t going to kick the anthill. She just didn’t intend to catch the attention of the Trust while she was at.

The Trust had a smooth operation.  Identify those citizens associated with ATA gene carriers of Stargate Command, people no one would even know were missing, and proceed with experimentation. They just hadn’t counted on Joss Carter.

For disclaimer information for both writing and cover art see Disclaimer.

Chapter 1

Joss lightly laid her head on her desk. She’d been up somewhere around 42 hours. This long ass day had started with the Mayor issuing a recommended evacuation notice, that they were enforcing with some police muscle. She’d been the only detective in the bull pen when the calls had come in from Lincoln Heights that the residents weren’t cooperating.

That hadn’t been fun.

Then there was John and his number. That crazy man had been out and about in this foul weather. What was it he’d told her, oh yeah “Numbers wait for no man”. Well, they were going to have to wait for her. Because she needed some damn sleep.

“Detective Carter.” She looked up from the paperwork she wasn’t doing to give her attention to the FBI agent trying to arrest her friend.

“What can I do for you agent?” There was a slight frown creasing his brows, a cautious look in his eyes. That didn’t look like a good sign, but a tired smile was as good as she could give at the moment.

The federal agent perched at the edge of her desk, she refrained from shoving him off it.

“I know it’s been a busy time for you, what with the evacuation and that messy deal with the Identity Thief.” A light hand rested near her own.

Carter gestured to her pile of paperwork, “I won’t be done with that case for some time yet.”

“Oh, I know.” Agent Donnelly nodded, “I understand completely, I just wanted to see if the case had anything to do with The Man In the Suit.”

What Carter wanted to do was shove the presumptuous ass off her desk. She wanted to tell him to mind his own fucking business, or even better tell him that it dealt rather closely with ‘The Man In the Suit’. It was more than her job, lying on the line. What about all the people John and Harold managed to save? What about all the tips they were able to give her, helping with her cases too? Not to mention that John looks awful in orange.

“No,” the tired woman said, rubbing the bridge of her nose. “There were several witnesses to the Identity Thief, including one business man in a suit. But it wasn’t “The Man In the Suit’.”

Donnelly nodded slowly, as though he wasn’t sure he wanted to trust her. Which was ridiculous. If Donnelly was half as good as he thought he was, the man would have caught her and John a lot sooner.

The federal agent leaned in closer, Carter obliged him by following his lead. “I wasn’t sure if I was crossing any lines, Joss.” She tightened her hold on the paperwork seperating them. “But you look like you could use some sleep, Detective.”

She returned his slimy smile with a stiff one of her own. “I think we could all use some.”

Donnelly nodded, “I agree.” Gave her a sharp wink. “Just make sure you get some Joss.” He swaggered out of the bullpen as Carter resisted the urge to throw something, like her stapler, at the infuriating fed.

“Man, Carter. What’d you do?” Fusco whistled across from her, his eyes following the cocky agent as he left the area. “And here I thought he couldn’t get any creepier.”

Letting the paperwork she’d used as a shield fall the tired Detective followed it down with her forehead. Smacking the desktop, then pillowing her arms over it. All she wanted was some sleep. Was that too much to ask?

“Carter!” She whips her head up, apparently it was, since she was being called by the Captain. Great, just great.

There was the big man himself, Captain Womack, pushing his girth through the door before him. The man scowled out at her, “Get in here Carter.”

The homicide detective slowly got to her feet, her aching feet, and shot her partner a look across their shared open space.

Hands in the air Fusco waved her off, “Don’t look at me, I didn’t do nothin’. And,” he said leaning closer, “I haven’t heard nothin’ from our ‘mutual friends’ either.” The other detective shrugged, “Whatever it is, it’s just you this time Carter.”

She sneered at the man, “You’re so much help Fusco. Your support just overwhelms me.” Slamming the desk drawer shut, she gathered her frayed wits to deal with whatever her Captain was about to drop in her lap. The only thing she knew?
It wasn’t going to be pretty.

———–

The office was dark. Captain Womack had an interior office with no windows and the overhead light had been busted years ago without ever being replaced. So with the only light coming from the lamp on his desk and the two in the corners, it took a minute for her eyes to adjust.

When they finally did, she made out that there were two guests also in the room. Air Force Officers in dress uniform.

“Captain,” she nodded slowly, “You wanted to see me, sir?”

“Take a seat, Detective.” Womack gestured to the hard plastic chair set to one side of his desk and opposite the two Air Force Officers. “This is Officer Munlow and Chaplain West.” The Captain hesitated just a moment, “They have something they need to discuss with you.”

If she had been in top shape, Carter would probably been able to predict what was going to happen. As it was she was tired, sore, and suffering from a caffeine headache. She’d be lucky if she could shoot straight at this point. Regardless, she faced the attending officers with her full attention.

“Detective Carter, you were on record as First Lieutenant Aiden Ford’s next of kin.” Officer Munlow said. “You recognize that this is fact.”

“Yes,” Carter said slowly. “He’s my cousin, we both grew up under our Nana’s guardianship. Is something wrong?”

“First Lieutenant Ford,” Munlow hesitated, she leaned forward. “I’m sorry Detective Carter, but First Lieutenant Ford is dead.”

Carter blinked, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard that right.”

Chaplain West leaned forward, the tall thin man ended up much closer to Carter than blond officer Munlow, and she wasn’t sure she liked it. “Denial is an understandable part of the grieving process, Joss. But this is a natural part of life.”

The chaplain reached for her hands, but Carter swiftly moved them up and away from him. Going so far as to move her chair further back.

“A natural part of life?” Carter hissed, “Aiden was 22, he’d graduated at the top from Annapolis!”She stood. Staring down into the Chaplain’s face and pushed each of her words down his throat. “You do not. Get to tell me. That ‘This. Is. A. Natural. Part. Of. Life!’”

Carter was furious. These officers may have only been doing there jobs, but damn could they have done them better.

“Detective! Sit your ass down!” Womack sprang up as she did and thumped hard on his desk. “Before I have your badge for it.”

“No,” The blond Officer Munlow breathed, “No, Chaplain could’ve used more tact.” The woman shrugged as Carter panted and Womack settled back into his seat. “Unfortunately there’s more bad news.”

Carter threw her a sharp eyed glare. “What else?”

Munlow leaned back in the plastic chair, legs splayed and indolent. “There are questionable circumstances concerning his death, he’s being posthumously tried for treason.”

“On what grounds?” Carter asked, a hitch in her breath, water in her eyes.

“Dereliction of duty, abandoning his post, conspiracy with the enemy, and conduct unbecoming of an officer.”

“With what evidence?” Joss frowned, confused and angry. She was tired and hungry and upset, what had Aiden gotten himself into? “Aiden was stationed in Antarctica, what was he posted against? The penguins?”

Munlow shrugged, “That’s classified. In fact, it’s all classified. You won’t get his things until after the trial, and even then, whatever happened will still be classified.”

At that the two Air Force Officers stood to leave. They shook Captain Womack’s hand and nodded when Carter didn’t shake their hands or take their cards.

“I am sorry for your loss,” Munlow said as she left, “And I’m sorry you had to find out about your cousin’s duplicity this way.”

The Chaplain waited until his partner was out the door before offering his hand to the detective one last time. “I know you’re hurting.” He tightened his grasp on her hands, “I know it may seem as though nothing here seems to make sense. That everything you thought was a lie.” Earnestness dripped from the Chaplain’s words. “You have to remember Detective, things are rarely as they appear.”

Carter’s eyes followed the Chaplain as he walked out the door, weird man.

“Carter,” The Captain dragged his girth from behind the desk, herding her toward the door. “I understand your pain, I do.” His cautious eyes trained on hers, maybe a little to hard. “I lost my brother in the Gulf War.” Carter nodded, it wasn’t an unknown fact in the bullpen. “So trust me. Take the next couple days to get your head screwed on right.”

————————

The strange thing about exhaustion? Even when your body is at the end of your rope, you can rarely fall asleep fast. So long as the mind continues to run, the body tries to as well. It was really late, or rather, really early, and Joss Carter was sitting at her kitchen table with two fingers of whiskey in a clear glass tumbler. She didn’t touch it.

She’d spent the night sad. And angry. And beyond confused. What had her cousin gotten himself into?

Joss could understand the fog of war. Of doing something you didn’t understand or mean to. She’d seen more than her fair share of guys who just flipped. Done something in the heat of the moment they didn’t even know they did.

Then there were the guys, the percentage of enlisted men who join the army for a chance at violence. They were a certain type. Mean and nasty, they earned the reputation the US Army had in third world countries.

She hung her head. Aiden had been a kid! A kid with stars in his eyes, who had just wanted to continue serving like the rest of their family. He had made everyone so proud when he’d graduated from Annapolis, a Marine Officer.

Now he was dead. Dead and being tried for treason. For dereliction of duty. For conduct unbecoming. And she just couldn’t see it, Joss couldn’t understand what her cousin could have possibly done to deserve court martial.

But then, a small voice in the back of her head whispered, do they really court martial the ones who deserve it?

Joss had been high enough in the Army when she’d retired to know that the really messy ones, they guys the military doesn’t like to admit they take; they never stand trial. They get burried in foreign prisons. Have accidents, or simply disappear.

No, guys in top secret programs who stand trial for treason do something questionable.

Something that makes the brass, uncomfortable.

Something that might go either way.

Joss pushed the glass of whiskey away from the edge of the table. It was time to start making some phone calls. See how many people her cousin had made uncomfortable. See how many people she could question.

—————————-

Coffee was already on his desk, the smell of Caribbean dark roast filling the office. His computer was turned on, but the start up screen was still working through. Settling his gear into the chair set to the side of his desk, Jack smiled.

Corpsman Dougard was magic at what he did. Which was essentially, anything Jack needed him to do. He served at the pleasure of the General, and he ensured that he was irreplaceable by making even the most annoying and stupid tasks easy for him to accomplish. The happier Jack was at his job, the less likely an interplanetary incident would occur.

He wasn’t possitive, but Jack was pretty sure that Danny had a counter somewhere that kept track of “Days Without Interplanetary Incidents”, because the first time they went thirty days without an incident Danny handed the Corpsman a gift certificate and a bag of his own Caribbean blend.

The General snorted lightly at his woolgathering, the day had already begun.

“Dougard!” He hollared, “Get in here! Time to start the day.”

Dougard was a short marine, shorter than Jack at least, with perpetually tan skin and a misplaced sense of humor. He wasn’t total deadpan, but if Jack hadn’t spent years decoding the muscle twitches of a repressed Jaffa, his executive assistant could’ve been pretty off putting.

The Corpsman rolled through the door on his own chair with the color-coded and indexed calendar he used to ensure the General was exactly where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to be, at all times.

Jack pulled out the daily list he used and a purple pen. “So what’s on the docket for today?”

“SG-9 is off-world today, a first contact mission on P3X-49771. They’re set to depart at 0900 hours.” Dougard listed off.

Jack twirled the pen, P3X-49771, he clicked through a couple of programs on the computer and Dougard waited. P3X-49771, tested safe on the drone visit for life sustaining capabilities. The General waited a moment as the notes loaded.

It was one of the planets Kimar of the Logua had suggested they search for Naguadria, the blue-silver shinning stones that the Ancients build the Stargates out of. If it was obvious enough that Kimar, a man who said things that made some of his Marines wince, would recognize the substance; then it had to be close to the surface. Which did not indicate good things about surface integraty.

“Are any of the Jumper loans from Atlantis available for SG-9 to take with them?”

Dougard pulled up the inventory matrix on his handheld. “Jumper 4 is off-roster for duty until Ensign Jenner can get back to repairing the crystal consul. But Jumper 1 was left, after SG-4’s mission yesterday was delayed until next week.”

Jack nodded, looking at the same information on his screen. “When is the Leviathan back in orbit?”

“Six days, sir. Next Tuesday,” Dougard clarified.

“Give Maven the go-ahead to take Jumper 1, have it packed with one of the extended space-bags and inform him that the team is to check in ever hour on the hour. If they miss a deadline because of anything less than a bullet I will be very mad.”

Dougard nodded, sending off the note to inform Second Lieutenant Maven of the change of plans. “SG-22 is taking the aid supplies to Domin, and SG-13 is escorting Dr. Palmer through the ‘gate to P3X-99214 as part of the aid and peace talks the Mol have agreed to.”

P3X-99214 was a pretty rough place. They were post-industrial post-apocalptic. The people on the planet, the Mol, had been fighting between clans for years over resources like the dwindling food and water supplies. The diplomatic corps had worked a basic agreement out for aid supplies and medical treatment. Eventually the head of the diplomatic corps, at least the portion in the know about the stargate, was hopeful the people would agree to a mass relocation plan. For now the place was still rough, with very little communication between groups.

Jack leaned back, “SG-4 is still out of rotation, right?”

“Yes, sir. Donald still has three weeks of recoup left on his broken ankle.”

“But I bet the rest of them are sick of being couped up.” Jack pointed the purple pen at his assistant. “Tell Marks, James, and Johns to report to Staff Sergeant Johansen; extra bodies to protect, and serve,” The General said in mock, “Dr. Palmer.”

Dougard noted the changes. A gun-calused hand, their General might have been out of the action but Dougard would never say the Air Force General wasn’t still in the game, gestured for him to continue. “Dr. Henessey would like to appeal the decision to keep him Earth bound.”

Jack snorted, “No way. Henessey is a danger to himself and others, until the man learns to follow directions, or Jackson fires him, he’s Earth bound.” The purple pen flashes across the air between them. “In fact, note it: Henessay isn’t allowed on anything that could take him out of orbit. No Jumpers, No spaceships, not even a Goa’uld fighter.”

Dougard was in no way looking forward to the fit Henessay was going to throw when he finds out, not only did the appeal fail, but General O’Neill tightened the boundaries of the order. “Ambassador Rosegate would like to speak with the team that had first contact with the Gauen on P3X-77658, in hopes that he can flesh out a little more of what they might want.”

Ambassador Rosegate, was the twelfth diplomatic ambassador attatched to Stargate Command in four years. Originally, the General in charge of the SGC had been all the diplomat that the program had needed. Or rather, Dr. Jackson’s ability to facilitate compromise mixed with the, then Colonel, O’Neill’s ability to pull off the impossible; and ost problems could resolve themselves. Now, that just wasn’t possible. The number of agreements and acknowledgments the SGC had, along with the shifting oversight of the facility, required someone solely dedicated to the work.

In one accident or another, each of the eleven diplomats before Joshua Rosegate had died, gone insane, or quit. In one string of events, that could only happen at the SGC, the Ambassador was declared dead, was resurrected, quit from his job and then checked himself into a mental hospital. Then Joshua Rosegate shows up to his interview in an AC/DC t-shirt and jeans, manages to negotiate a truce between two fighting Jaffa clans, and then blows everyone away by admitting he was just a messenger. He was supposed to get the paperwork signed by General O’Neill then return to the Capitol. He’d just been sucked into the problem.

Instead the paperwork is sent back with a Marine Corporal and Rosegate’s ass is seated in an orientation class on the SGC.

“That’s fine.” Jack said as he sat back in his seat, leaning back impossibly far. “Tell the SG team concerned to book an appointment.” The purple pen was thrown in the air, “Anything else Dougard?”

“Only the last briefing from Atlantis, sir.” The executive assistant shuffled a few loose papers around before he found what he wanted and slid it over to his commanding officer. “They’re requesting the SGC start sending reports on the state of their families. A few of them are concerned that because they have to wait for the mail from the SGC that they’re missing certain important peices of information.”

“I don’t see a problem with that, they just want to know their families are still alive.” The General nodded, not that Dougard could see it from his angle and the recline of the General’s seat. “Give it to security, tell them to preppare short and sweet briefs on each member of each family that has a relative on Atlantis.”

“Speaking of security, sir.” Dougard slid a single sheet of printed paper across his superior’s desk. “Dr. Jackson and Dr. Jefferson report four more items have been,” He hesitated, then hedged. “’Misplaced’. Even with the increased security and the new procedures in place.”

Jack nearly threw the purple pen in the rush of fury that followedd that proclamation. “Someone, one of our own Dougard,” he pierced the other man with steel grey eyes. “Is stealing from us.” He slowly sat back in his chair. “Now the question is, what do we do about it?”

 

“A suggestion, sir?” Dougard had Jack’s attention. “There’s never a bad reason to bring in a cop, sir. Perhaps an MP can see something, with their training that we never could?”

 

The desk phone, a land line, rang shrilly and both men winced. A purple pen pointed at his executive officer, “Hold that thought.”

———————-

“General Jack O’Neill?” came the smooth voice from the other end of the phone.

Jack snapped his fingers at Dougard, pointing to the phone. He had security on another line near immediately, trying to trace the call. “Who is this?”

“My name is Joss Carter,” the faint sound of papers being shuffled came through the phone mic as base security set up on his desk to trace the call.

“How did you get this number?”

There was tone in the voice, a little sarcasm when she replied. “I’m a NYPD Detective, former Army Intelligence and Interrogation Specialist. I know how to get a phone number to a well known base land line.”

Jack winced, there wasn’t much he could do about his land line. Security had mentioned the concern several times. Unfortunately there were several people with excessive amount of political power that had the number to this land line. “So, what’s this about?”

There was a near silent sigh, Jack wasn’t even entirely sure he heard it. “I want to know the circumstances surrounding Lt. Aiden Ford’s death.”

Jack arched a brow, that was an unusual request for someone who managed to place unvetted calls to land lines that shouldn’t exist. “Why?”

“I’m Aiden Ford’s next of kin.”

Jack winced again, just what he needed, a relative of a disappeared soldier who had the power to make things uncomfortable.

“I want to see the evidence implicating his actions as treasonous, and I want an open trial with an impartial military judge.”

Jack nearly laughed, that was never going to happen. Not so long as Stargate Command was fighting a war in two galaxies against two different enemies that gave hardened marines nightmares. “You don’t have the clearance for that information.”

“I worked Intelligence and Interrogation in Afghanistan, my security clearance goes pretty high.”

“I don’t care how high you thought your security clearance got you, it’s not high enough for this.” Jack twirled the purple pen as the officers from security motioned that they needed more time for the trace to cycle through. “You’re never going to get those files.”

Joss sat back in her desk chair in New York, what the hell had Aiden been involved in that she didn’t have clearance for it? What could he have done that regulated his actions to possible treason? When  you got high enough that ‘Black ops Intelligence’ didn’t cover it, sneezing could be misconstrued. “The problem with this situation is that I know: you get high enough in the military that they have closed trials for your actions that result in declarations of treason, the trial is usually perfunctory.”

Jack knew what she was talking about, knew what the pentagon did to cover up it’s dirty secrets. Knew that sometimes good men were thrown under the bus for actions that weren’t their’s. “What do you want?”

“I don’t trust that this trial isn’t already decided outside the court of law. If First Lieutenant Aiden Ford is being tried for treason, then it should be a matter of General Court Marshal before a Judge Advocate in the presence of JAG officers. Specifically I want Lt Col Desmond Raez, a man I know and trust, to defend my cousin.”

To Jack’s frustration, and likely the frustration of the officers from security, it didn’t look like the trace was going to go through. “Col Raez is a very busy man-”

“No.” She interrupted him, ballsy for a former military officer. “Col Raez for defense, or I continue making calls to phone numbers I shouldn’t have and annoying powerful people. And I want to hear he’s contacted within the next 48 hours, or-”

“I know,” Jack ran his fingers through his hair, “phone calls to land lines that really shouldn’t exist.”

“I’m so glad we’re in agreement.”

 

—————————-

Jack swore long and loud at the dial tone at the other end. He looked up from one of the most frustrating phone calls he’d ever taken, surprising really given the number of politicians that had his base number, to gesture to his Exec officer. “Make sure to call Lt Col Desmond Raez at Air Force JAG as soon as possible. The last thing we need is a civilian with enough former military contacts to make Teal’c uncomfortable, angry.”

Dougard immediately made a note on his ever present calendar.

Jack turned to the security officers waiting off to the side. “What can you tell me about the call?”

One of the security men shrugged. “I’m sorry General, there’s not much.” He paced forward to set their laptop on the desk. It showed a line that zig-zagged across the planet. “Her call was bouncing all over the place. At times the bounce even stopped and we thought we had her, but then it’d start back up again and we’d land somewhere else.” The officer stepped back, fists tightening.

“So we’ve got nothing.” Jack finally did throw the purple pen, hitting the wall on the far side of the desk.

“Sir, if I may?” An Officer Calhune, by the tag on his shirt, stepped forward from the frustrated cluster.

Jack motioned him forward and gave him the go-ahead.

“She told you who she was: Next of Kin for Lt Aiden Ford, NYPD Detective, former Army Intelligence, Joss Carter.” Jack nodded along with the information. Officer Calhune pointed to the screen of the laptop. “I don’t think she meant to keep you in the dark. Maybe she was using such tactics to ensure a secure call?”

Jack nodded, “Regardless, I want everything on Joss Carter. And verify that it was her I was speaking to.” It was too bad the day had just started. Jack sighed. He had a nice blue label in his desk for occasions like this one and it was looking to be a long day.

—————

In a secret corner of the top secret base a single text message went out from an unregistered phone.
Joss Carter.

 

The man who received this message would relay it on as necessary. It was not the first name on their list, and it would not be the last.

 

Chapter 2

 

Col Raez sat back in his chair and looked out over the Washington skyline. The holidays were his favorite time of year to be in the city. The glowing lights, the festive spirit, it almost made him wish he had family to go home to. He did good work, sometimes he just wished there was less work.

The Army lawyer sipped from the clear glass on his desk. The lights were out in the majority of the building, the majority had already left. Those remaining were the … dedicated, those more dedicated to the job than a relationship. Raez fit in rather well. There was no one waiting up for him at home, and the woman he needed to speak to, she’d be up working as well. No rest for the wicked, but no rest for the righteous either.

He sighed sitting back to look over his notes on the case. He’d been at this four months and he still wasn’t used to all it entailed. The security was rigorous, what it hid was unbelievable. He wasn’t allowed written notes, they remained on a tablet given to him by the Stargate Command for just this case. It was too easy for a colleague or intern to see confidential information when it was spread over the desk in piles and sticky notes. Given the rather sharp smile of the Staff Sargeant who had delivered the tablet and his four hundred page confidentiality agreement, Raez didn’t want any accidents. He used the equipment provided.

Raez was good at what he did, he spent too much hours at work not to be; and he’d worked several high profile cases before. This, though, was in a class of its own.

Aliens. Life on other planets, more than that, the Stargate meant life before humanity. And good chance of life afterwards too.

There were good aliens and bad aliens, and more evil in the universe than Raez wanted to acknowledge. The United States was trying its best to save as many as possible. From the Gou’ald, and their reign of enslavement. From the Ori, and their total encompassing need to be worshipped. Then there was the Wraith. Raez was pretty sure he could get behind the total annihilation of any species that saw humanity as a food source.

Yeah, Raez thought as he swirled the liquid in his glass tumbler, it just required a shift in mentality to acknowledge the fact that the U.S. military was genuinely one of the good guys. And that humanities downfall wasn’t likely to be themselves. He snorted, how revolutionary.

For most of his career Raez had defended idiots. He had a thousand stories to display the ridiculous lack of sense humanity showed as a whole, but very few would out do Aiden Ford’s. And Raez knew Ford’s story by heart.

The kid had showed promise. He was smart enough to know the red wire from the blue, but stupid enough to still fall on the grenade. Just the way the Marine Corps liked them.

Ford had been recruited from Annapolis by the SGC as a test case. Many in the command, O’Neill included, didn’t approve of the recruitment of green soldiers. Too little time in the field, too little experience following orders, too young. They weren’t wrong, Raez didn’t think. Aiden Ford would have always ended up in the SGC, he would have been spotted eventually as an ATA gene carrier. Perhaps by then he’d have been a little more weathered, a little more hardened to life on a base with war footing.

As it was, Aiden Ford was sent into a situation ill prepared physically and ill equipped emotionally. Raez could use that. Atlantis, Raez still got a weird rush each time he thought of that far off city; Atlantis would have been under a great amount of stress. The city was constantly running out of power, never had enough food, and they were fighting a war where the enemy surrounded them. There were several instances where elements within the city itself caused an altered state for their inhabitants.

Raez would argue, very well too, that Aiden Ford had a psychotic break due to the stress of the mission and compounded by the events during the invasion of Atlantis. This break is what caused Ford to disobey direct orders. It would be attributed to his altered state, due to the influx of chemicals in his system from the Wraith feeding, that he abandoned Atlantis. This altered state would also be the explanation for why Aiden Ford kidnapped and held hostage his commanding officer and previous teammates.

Raez would argue that you cannot put a sick man on trial and that special extenuating circumstances need to be applied to Aiden Ford’s particular case. Ford was exposed to a chemical compound while in combat on duty, that this compound broke his mind should mean a medical discharge, not a trial for treason.

The prosecuting officer would counter with a statement about how ‘if Ford had followed orders, he would have been medically discharged.’

This would be the lynchpin for his debate, because when the prosecutor admits Ford would have been medically discharged, he admits that Ford was sick and became so in the line of duty. Therefore the obligation to secure Ford and arrange for his transport safely back to Earth lies with his commanding officer, Major Sheppard. Not with Lieutenant Ford himself.

Raez has to be careful there. By all account Sheppard is an exemplary commanding officer, only made more so by the acknowledgement of the failing circumstances. The fact that there were several elements in Washington that were aching and itching to see him replaced, maybe dumped somewhere dark and wet for the next eternity, meant that no suspicion of derelict behavior could fall on Sheppard.

The Army Lawyer wasn’t so concerned. He had an expert witness lined up from the SGC to give credence, not only to the emotional toll the expidention must have been under; but also to the unusual history of altered mental or emotional states many soldiers are victims of working in the SGC. Also already lined up were testimonials from several returned members of Atlantis, exemplifying the horrendous conditions the Atlantis Expedition were suffering under, and how it was only the hard work of the Command Staff, both civilian and military working together, that got them through it.

That should cover all his bases. Raez knew, straight up Aiden Ford committed treason; under any other circumstances Ford would be tried for it. But here Raez had a chance to save the memory of a man who had given so much of himself to his mission that he’d given his sanity.

What Raez wanted out of the trial was an acquittal and an apology. The acquittal for the name of First Lieutenant Ford on the counts of treason and the awarding of a purple heart. The apology would be to Master Sergeant Joss Carter, retired, would be for the excessive emotional detriment this long drawn out affair must have taken on her nerves. Raez grinned with teeth, that was exactly what he wanted it to say.

Raez leaned over his desk to dial the familiar number, “Carter. I’ve got good news.”

“Okay, Raez. Thanks.”

Joss closed the flip phone, tapping it against her thigh as she thought about what this might mean.

“Good news, Joss?” A shadow detached itself from the wall to her right amid her blue streak swearing.

“Damn it, John!” Hand pressed against her heart, Joss gave absolutely no credence to the idea it was pumping hard from something other than fright. “Make a little noise!”

He gave a crooked grin worth a front page on a news stand, blue eyes twinkling like mad. He slouched against wall next to her, she almost winced at the thought of what that brick must be doing to his suit. Before she remembered what he did for a living. He ran around Manhattan in a suit worth more than her annual income tackling thugs and hit men into sludge and slime.

Joss took a long look at the cut of his pants and the drape of his coat. One lovingly molded to the muscles in his thighs and the other emphasized the breadth of his shoulders. She had to admit, Armani never looked so dangerous.

“You like what you see, Joss?” John pulled his duster away from his suit, whose perfectly tailored jacket only brought the New York Detective’s attention to his trim waist. He gave a little spin, ensuring she saw all he had to give. “Interested in seeing what I’m packing?”

Joss snorted, John had a quiet but lively smile in his eyes and affection on his face. She didn’t want to ruin it, “Don’t you know that line only works in uniform? Besides,” she gestured up and down, encompassing the entire six feet three inches of hardened, delicious, assassin. “I’m checking for blood.” She blinked for a moment, her eyes watery at the thought of one more close call for a loved on in her life. “I never know with you.”

“Hey,” came the gentle whisper as John stepped right through her ‘friend zone’ and into her personal space. Taking one of her hands, cold against the heat from his hands, he placed right on his chest. Where she could feel the steady pumping of his heart, close enough that she could feel her own heart race. “I’m right here, Joss.” His blue eyes drilling into her chocolate orbs. “I’ll be here as long as you need me, and a lot longer than you want me.”

He pulled her into a gentle hug. All Joss could feel was the heat from his body as it unwillingly relaxed her muscles and bones. “Now, what’s going on Joss?”

She ran her nose gently against his chest, inhaling that wonderful odor. Gunpowder, and a hint of lime, laid over the smell of whatever cleaning agent his drycleaner used, and something that was all John. Rubbing lightly against him she sighed.

“It’s nothing, John.” She held on tight for just a moment, “I’m just glad you’re here.”

He ran his hands along her arms to cup her shoulders, loosening their embrace just enough to look in her eyes. “You know this is a two-way relationship right?” A gentle smile with laughter in his eyes, “If you need help Joss, all you have to do is ask? Hell,” John husked lightly. “Don’t tell me. Just point me in the right direction. Let me slay all your dragons.”

Joss huffed, pulling away from the safety of his arms. Her sanctity as an independent woman threatened. “I’ll have you know John Reese, that I can slay my own damn dragons.”

“Oh, I know you can.” John ran a finger lightly down the side of her face as she moved from him. She swallowed dryly at the heat in his blue eyes. “You just don’t have to Joss.”

 

Chapter 3

Weak fingers pulled at his coat and black spots dotted across his vision. A voice, as though from far away, was saying his name.

“John. We’ve got to go. John!”

There were sirens in the distance and there was a very good reason he couldn’t be here when they got there. He just wasn’t sure of what it was at the moment.

With each step away from the downed form of his friend the pain mounted in his heart. Each step pounded through his chest, like something was digging into his chest. With every step away from Joss the pain in his heart grew to eclipse the pain in his side.

It was like fire licked along the nerves in his side and he could feel the strength leaving his body even as Finch bullied him further and further away. But after awhile he couldn’t feel it, not past the cold seeping into his body, or the anger that heated his heart at leaving the woman on the street.

He didn’t understand, all that was good in the world, all the light that made the darkness bearable; it went out when her heart stopped beating. What reason could possibly be enough to pull him back from the edge? What was the good of saving the world, when the one you were saving it for was gone?

John just barely heard the calls of his friend as he gave into the darkness edging in at the corners of his vision. There wasn’t anything left worth fighting for.

Harold Finch would manage, through carefully selected and expended resources, to save the life of John Reese. But it would be a long ardorous journey. There would be seizures and tremors, nightmares and blood. John would reject medication and food, throwing up so hard he would start to bleed. At the end, when Harold Finch knew his friend would survive, he would look back over the days and days of illness and believe it was over. He would thank a god he didn’t believe in, for saving his friend’s life.

Not knowing, or not wanting to know, that now that John was saved from infection and blood loose. Now that he was in no danger of tearing stitches, or whatever horrible illness had savaged him from the inside, which none of the doctors hired could understand.

What Harold didn’t want to see, now that his friend was healing, was that the next threat to John Reese’s life, would come from himself.

 

——

 

A blond woman, tall and athletic, beautiful but with curiously dead eyes walked into the morgue with her male companion. Both wore the starched uniform of the funeral home Beckonsdale’s Resting Place. Where the body of one Joss Carter was registered to go.

Casually they signed for the NYPD Detective’s body, making small talk about the game on Saturday with the aide on duty. Calmly they walked out, talking about the route they would take to the funeral parlor now that the original was blocked with an accident.

Joss Carter’s body would never get to her final resting place in Beckonsdale’s graveyard. They had a different plan for the late Detective Carter. One that might eventually pay for the pain she had already caused them. And no one would ever know.

——

“The service was closed casket,” John could hear the thunk of Harold’s case being dropped into one of the dinner table chairs. Likely the same chair it’s been dropped into every time Harold came by ‘to see how he was doing’. “I checked it out, nothing nefarious, just some unpleasant side effects of the bullet’s trajectory.”

John knew what would have happened. The bullet severed the jugular and Joss bled out onto John within seconds of the bullet entering her flesh. From the close range of the weapon the wound left in Joss’s flesh was likely too large for the mortician to cover or fix. So they suggested a closed casket ceremony.

“Was it … nice?”

John knew all the reasons he couldn’t go to the funeral. It started with the three inch hole in his side and ended with the 400 cops that turned out to honor a damn good detective. They were even numbered. He had started counting what Harold had started repeating, somewhere around the forth time Finch had caught him trying to get dressed in time for the ceremony. Eventually the software writer had gotten it through John’s head that the last thing Joss would have wanted was someone else getting credit for taking him in.

“We’ll go though?” John asked from his position leaning against his window facing the chess tables. He didn’t see them, all he could see was the pain in Joss’s eyes as she lay on the side walk, abandoned. “When everything dies down?”

“Yes, Mr. Reese.” Harold murmured in the background. “After you’re better, we’ll go.”

—-

Elias found John at her graveside. It was the only place he could be consistently found.  Once a week, same time, dusk, but each a different day, John would lay a boquete of gerber daisies and pink carnations on her grave. Same man, same time, same flowers, different day.

There was no pattern that Elias’s men seemed to find in the assassin’s visitation; at least not a pattern that would predict when John would appear.

And John did appear. He appeared at her graveside, just in time to watch the final setting of the sun, and in that one moment when Elias’s men were blinded by the fading light , he vanished. They could have taken him by the grave, but Elias wouldn’t stand for it. For all that the Man in the Suit tended to ruin his plans, John and Joss had been good people; honest and sincere to a fault. You knew where you stood with them.

So Elias honored the memory of the toughest woman he’d ever met. The graveside of Joss Carter was a demilitarized zone. He wouldn’t have John hurt while visiting the woman he loved. So Elias always waited.

“I saw you found Simmons.” John’s voice was husky and low in a way Elias had never heard before. It sent a shiver up his spine, but the head of the Italian families couldn’t figure out if it was dread …. or pleasure.

“I let Charlie decide how to display him,” Elias smiled lightly, rocking back on his feet in the moist earth. “I have to say I liked his flair.”

Originally he’d wanted to spread the remains of HR’s second in command over the grave of the one cop he shouldn’t have touched. But in the weeks since Carter’s funeral both John and her kid Taylor had taken to using the grave side as a place of peace. By the time his men had found Simmons, Elias hadn’t wanted to disturb the  site.

So they had tortured and mutilated Simmons, hanging him upside down by his balls outside the precinct the detective had worked. A note attached: The city will miss you, Detective.

Elias smiled, rocked back on his feet as in the blinding light of dusk the assassin slipped away once again. He really did think it was well done.

—–

Taylor stared out the door as the man in the suit walked away. He hadn’t asked to come in, didn’t make any references to being friends with his mom or even a passing acquaintance.

All the man had said when he opened the door was that his mom was great woman. If he needed anything Taylor could call the number.

The man had handed him a business card, cheap cardstock. On the side the man had handed him was written, in blue pen and slanted handwriting, a name, John, and a really long number. A really long number, there were four dashes in it. But on the other side…

On the other side, was his mom’s information. Her name and number; work and cell, fax and email, the precinct address. It was one of her business cards. Worn at the edges and a little discolored, as though whoever had, had it carried it with them in a pocket for a long time.

On the back where the man, John, had put his information the ink was crisp and clear. No signs of bleeding or smearing; that part was new.

Taylor slumped against the back of the door shut against the creeping cold. Why would a business man, a man who could have easily just walked off Wall Street, carry his mom’s business card in his pocket?

Part 4

She came to in a rush of fire and heat. A pain so strong that for a few minutes she was nothing more than the agony that rushed through her veins. Afterwards, rough hands picked her up and slung her over a shoulder. As they dumped her onto the cold concrete flooring and sound slowly came back, she struggled with remembering who she was. Where she was, or why she was there.

Her hands were tied in plastic behind her back and her feet were hobbled as well, so the best she could do as the world spun was look up at an awkward angle.

From where she lay she tried to observe where she might be. There was a window in the distance, so high the angle hurt her neck. The walls were a pale off-white color, but she was having trouble gagging distance and material when the world refused to stay still. The floor was cool to the touch even if it was rough and hard, all she really wanted to do was relax. Maybe let the black spots lingering at the corner of her perspective become a nice good nap; perhaps even one she didn’t wake up from. Because she hurt beyond what should be tolerable. She hurt like her soul was being ripped to pieces and stitched back together again, badly. Nothing that hurts that badly could be good.

There was something else though. Something that urged her to not only stay awake, alive, but to figure out a way to leave this mess. All around her were sobs and cries. Some screams sounded farther way and there was the clunk and thump of heavy movement not far from where she lay.

A table, it’s leg just in the corner of her vision, stood to her right side; people, bad guys she assumed, since they weren’t tied up, circled the peice of furniture clicking locks and swearing under their breath.

“Dumb, fucking shit!” A male swore, out of sight, but from the corner of her eye she tracked the movement. A leg went swinging and before she could roll out of the way, it hit her in the back. Full force it moved her body and pushed the air from her lungs. The pain that had lingered, not in her body but rather in her mind, was overshadowed by the sudden pain in her back.

“Wakey Wakey Sleeping beauty!” A large rough hand pulled at her hair. “Time to earn your keep!”

Dragging her by her hair the thug, because that was what he had to be, guys who pull victims’ hair without at least monolouging first are usually thugs. She blinked as the world came back into focus and her identity unfurled from the back of her mind. She was Joss Carter, New York City Detective, former interrogator for the United States Army; and one thing Carter had a lot of experience with, was thugs.

“Turn it on, bitch.”

She didn’t want to. She really didn’t want to. Whatever had been slammed down onto the table in front of her wasn’t giving her the warm and fuzzies. Besides the fact that anything an asshole like this might want was probably bad for her health.

The object was rectangular. Maybe two inches by nine inches, and thin, not any thicker than the width of a cell phone. It gave the appearance of a blue metal frame with a clear glass screen in the middle of it. Joss didn’t want to touch it.

Didn’t want to touch it. Didn’t want it near her. Hell, she didn’t even want to look at it. Whatever it was, was dangerous and sickening. It gave her a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach that had nothing to do with the way the room was still spinning or the pain from the hard grip the thug kept in her hair.

It had everything to do with the feeling of blood slicking her hands and the taste of bile in her mouth after vomitting. Joss didn’t want the thing with 60 yards of her position and here it was within six inches.

“What is it?” Its not that Joss actually wants to know. But step one of negotiating is the exchange of information. Even just a little piece. “What does it do?”

Thug number two, a skinny pale man with a truly astonishing bad dye job. “Why don’t you ask it Bitch! If you’re so damn curious!”

The no-nonsense NYPD dectictive almost sneered, how does one ask a question of a machine, but she swallowed her tongue. Both at the likelihood that thug One and Two wouldn’t apreciate her sense of humor and because she already knew of one machine, one computer, that did answer questions. And accasionally sent out a former CIA-opporative to do its dirty work. But how does one ask a question to a machine that doesn’t even have an interface?

At least Harold’s computer had camaras and microphones. This thing didn’t look like it had anything similar.

“Can I at least have my hands?” Hopefully, if they didn’t give her instructions than at least they would have less information about how the item worked, than it looked like they did.

“Oh no Bitch,” Thug two croned, creepily, leaning in close enough that Joss was suddenly aware the man was less aquainted with soap and water than she had first thought. He tapped a dirty finger on her forehead, which she felt was unnecessary, weird bad guy or not. “We won’t be giving you any chances to get away. Don’t worry, you don’t need your hands for this, just your mind.”

Her mind was not a light switch. She was not a light switch! Especially not for these creepy ridiculous assholes with no manners. Besides, technology didn’t work like that; at least nothing she’d ever come in contact with had ever responded to her thoughts. It would have been especially useful on the mornings she forgot to set the coffee pot.

Then again, the last thing Joss remembered was lying in John’s arms bleeding out. Considering she didn’t see her friend, and she wasn’t in a pine box six feet under; somebody had changed the rules before telling her. It certainly opened the door for mind controlled electronics.

Joss didn’t know what she was doing, but the scowling faces of Thug One and Thug Two were staring down at her and they didn’t look like they would be providing second chances. So Joss … stretched out her mind, reaching for the device as though imagining taking it in a hand.

Slamming into a mental barrier of nausea and disgust so strong the former Army Interogator nearly lost what little was in her stomach. “Tell me what you want it for and I might try turning it on for you.”

“No.” Thug Two snarled, “You don’t make the rules anymore Detective Carter.” He pointed out of her line of sight and Thug one returned with another hostage. An adult male, white, mid-thirties, with hazel blue eyes. The sound of the primed gun was loud in the warehouse as the muzzle of the weapon pressed against the victim’s temple. “You tell us what we want to know, you do what we tell you to do, and maybe we won’t kill you when we’re done.”

Thug two smiled with teeth and Joss nodded slowly. She wasn’t a coward, but she wasn’t willing to be the cause of someone’s murder. Not when she had a choice.

She reached out once more with her mind, and staring into the hazel blue eyes of the man standing so calm with a weapon pressed to his head, she cut through the disgust and illness that literally surrounded the machine. And she turned it on.

Simple as flipping a switch.

Joss watched as greed lit up the eyes of the Thugs from within. Whatever they thought was in that thing, certainly wasn’t something Joss wanted to get out.

Thug Two’s weapon lowered just a bit, his focus distracted by the shiny box sitting on the table. “Open it.”

A simply thought ‘Open’, didn’t work. Imagining the opening of a clasp or flip top, didn’t get her anywhere either. Mentally nudging the slim box with her thoughts returned the cold touch of inquiry. It had a question?

“It needs a password?” She mumbled, her eyes unfocused. “Some sort of code?”

The Thugs that had been eagerly inching forward, each greedy for whatever was in the container, and as small as it was Joss was certain it was a container; it didn’t take much thought for them to spin the weapon on her. “You’re lying!”

“I’m not.” She stared down the barrel of the glock, not making any sudden movements. “But you’re not in a position to know, are you?”

An angry red flush crawled up Thug Two’s face and Thug One forgot about his victim as he loomed above her seated form. Slowly, with spit hitting her face and the gun leaving muzzle impressions in her cheeks. “You’re. Lying.”

She didn’t respond, continued to stare up the barrel and watch as Thug Two became more and more unstable.

“Open it.” He nudged her with the weapon, Joss couldn’t smell him over the gunpowder residue on the weapon. “Open. It.”

“I can’t open it,” Joss lightly shrugged. “It needs some sort of password or code.”

“Openit! Openit! Openit!” He shouted into her face, barely inches away from her.

She leaned up into him, closing the gap, shouted, “I can’t!”

Crack! Joss was flung from her seat at the table. Without her hands she went face first into the cold concrete and landed right on the swelling bruise that was starting to limit her vision. Joss rolled onto her back and aimed her good eye at the thug with the gun just as he pulled the trigger.

Click. A misfire.

“Well, I guess its your lucky day Detective Carter.” A small frown made its way across his still red face, “And here I was anticipating the blood. Put her with the others.”

As she was hauled across the warehouse to the less than temporary holding pin they were keeping other hostages in Joss sent one last thought to the machine on the table. What are you holding?

Thug Two, the brawny one, hauled her to her feet. He led her across the warehouse floor, giving her a good view of the number of bodies that filled the space and the work they were doing. A quick look was all she got before he threw the detective into a pen with other people. Other hostages.

Without her hands to stop her and loss of circulation in her legs, there was no way to brace against the floor rushing up to greet her. For twice in ten minutes she slammed against the unforgiving concrete. Joss had a moment’s thought that it was going to hurt, before black crept across her vision and stole her senses.

Tha-thump thump. Tha-thump thump.

She was running. Her feet slapping on the floor, her heart in her throat.

Thump. Tha-thump thump. Thump.

She was running away from something. Never a coward, but she was soo scared.

Thump thump. Tha-thump thump. Thump.

She needed a plan, someway to face the fear. But the area was dark. To dark to see. And the fear was crippling.

Thump thump thump. Tha-thump thump. Thump thump.

She was caught, slamming into the wall that dead ended the hallway she’d turned down. Spinning she faced what she was running from. It was right behind her.

“Joss.” Blood oozed from sores split open over his face. It dripped down in rivets to stain the floor as he crawled closer. His skin yellowed from jaundice. His hair lank across his head. His nails cracked and broken as he scraped his way closer and closer, pulling his body, bloated and disfigured after him. “Joss.”

“No.” She shook her head. Clawed at the wall, tried to get further away, but there was nowhere to go. “No, John. It wasn’t supposed to be like this!” She sobbed. Wracking her body with cries as he pulled himself closer and closer.

“Then you shouldn’t have opened the box, Joss.”

“John.” She woke with a gasp and a racing heart, leaning against a cement wall in the closed off area with the other hostages.

“Hey.” The hazel blue eyes of the Thug twins’ victim were peering down at her from the man’s crouched form. “I’m Simon. Well,” he huffed with a strained smile, “Dr. Simon Wallace, my Phd is in psychology but, that stuff doesn’t seem to matter much any more.”

He handed her a plastic cup, water. “Don’t worry, they don’t spike any of the food or drink. Apparently even ‘on’ and ‘off’ can get difficult when you’re drugged.”

She sipped at the warm water in the cup. “One less worry.”

“Right.” Joss watched the Doctor’s frail smile crack and break. Water pooled in his eyes and his lips quivered. Joss didn’t blame him, from the wear on his clothes and the gaunt quality of the skin around his face, he’d probably been here the longest. Even if he’d kept his despair to himself, supporting this many hostages was a full time job.

Joss pulled him forward and propped him against the wall by her side. “How long you been here, Dr. Wallace?”

The man shrugged, “Simon’s fine. I don’t know, best guess a couple of weeks.”

“That’s strange,” She murmured, mostly to herself. “Somebody should be looking for you by now, even if its just your clients.”

“No.” Simon whispered, touching her shoulder and drawing her attention from the movement of the thugs she could barely see to the other hostages in the pin with her. “We’re all dead.”

Joss blinked. It was one thing to think you were dead, to think your remembered dying. Something different to know that it happened to a dozen other people. “Fake the deaths of two dozen people?” She shot the doctor a skeptic look, the same one she usually shot John when he pulled off another one of his hair-brained schemes. “That’s a lot of work.”

“No.” He pointed to an object in the middle distance, a coffin-type object on a low table in the middle of the room. It looked gaudy, covered in gold and jewels, belonged more in a museum of art or history, than the middle of the base of operations for bad guys. “We all died. Some they killed, some died like you, in fortuitous accidents; but we all died and nobody’s looking for us.”

“What is that? That … coffin?”

“It’s called a sarcophagus.” Simon rested back against the wall, “From what I can tell it was originally the property of a minor Gou’ald called Shem. It was registered as ‘combat appropriation’ with the SGC and then shipped to Area 51 for study. Only it never got there.”

Joss thunked her head back, wincing as the pain she had forgotten about flaired up again. “Area 51, Gou’ald, the ‘SGC’, bringing people back from the dead, and a safe box that can talk to you.” She might not have been a genius but nobody would bet against Joss Carter, “Aliens? Really?”

Simon blinked, “You didn’t know?”

“No,” She sighed, “I didn’t know.”

“I wonder how they got your name.” He gave an inquisitive look around the pin. “Everyone else here is directly connected with an ATA gene carrier from the program. Not daughters and sons, but wives and ex-wives of fallen soldiers, a couple disgraced scientists; not people anyone would expect to hear from again.”

Joss turned to whisper, leaning close to the psychologist as though trying to get comfortable for sleep. “Who do I talk to? Who can I trust to do something about this?”

Simon rubbed his cheek lightly against her hair, “You’re going to try to escape?”

“Maybe not now, but I don’t know, soon. That box they’re trying to open, I don’t think it holds love letters.”

“Rather more like hate mail, you think?”

“Yeah,” The former NYPD Detective whispered, a shudder going down her spine. “The kind with anthrax in it.”

“If you get out, the man you want is General Jack O’Neill, and his command the SGC, is in Cheyenne Mountain.” A hand ran down her shoulder, holding her close, petting her for comfort. Whether it was for him or her was up for discussion.

Carter sat up suddenly, “I know how they knew about me.” She continued at his curious look, “I raised a huge damn fuss over that fact that my cousin, Lt. Aiden Ford, was having a sealed trial for treason after being shipped home in a coffin.”

Simon snorted, “You probably pissed somebody off along the way. You sure you weren’t killed by this group?”

Joss shrugged, “No. But I was taken out by a corrupt cop for dismantling his entire organization. I’m sure these guys just took advantage of a wonderful opportunity.”

The woman barely listened as Simon made affirmative noises. Sure, she tuned in once more when he started running down the method of operation, but at the back of her mind ran the constant thought: she’d give anything for John to come strolling in the warehouse doors with some asinine comment about being lost, or losing something.

John wasn’t coming. The war veteran turned homicide cop bit back bitter tears. No one was coming. At the knowledge that all her support was a man she’d known less than a day and a dozen weak and tortured civilians, she closed her eyes. She didn’t have much time. Whatever was in that safe box could not be allowed to get out. But right this minute she was going to lean back and pretend that the man whispering in her ear wore glasses and bespoke suites. That her weapon was on her hip and that in a few hours she was going to take down just one more bad guy with the help of the Man in the Suit.

As she listened to Simon a plan came together.

The group, called The Trust for some ridiculous and xenophobic reason, moved every ten days and they moved all at once. The thugs would be in and out during the day, boxing everything up. Near dusk they would approach the victims with dinner and a bathroom break. Each victim would be taken from the bathroom, a hood slipped over their head and a beautiful set of standard issue metal bracelets would wrap around their wrists. They did this one by one. The whole group would ride through the night, then just as day broke they would be at their new ‘home base’. The kidnap victims would be transitioned from the vehicle to the new warehouse during first dawn. That time of day particularly tricky to see in. The Trust used that specific time to confuse anyone watching about what they’d seen.

Well, Joss was going to use their trick against them. After riding in one position for over eight hours, their heartbeats would be at rest, fatigue fuzzing their minds, boredom dulling their edge. They were used to bullying exhausted hostages awake, not preparing for the possibility of attack.

So that was when Joss would escape. She’d pretend to trip and go down while walking between the vehicle and the warehouse. When they lost their grip on her, she’d hit out. Overbalancing one thug, overcoming the other, then rebounding for the first thug. Using the unfamiliar teraine against them, Joss would run fast and quietly and then hide somewhere nearby. Once they continued with their standard operating procedure, possibly as late as the next night, Joss would orient herself and head to the nearest transportation center.

She would never flaunt the fact, but between growing up in Manhattan, a career catching pickpockets and theives, and being … close with a former CIA-opperative, she could get the money she needed for a ticket. But for right now, she needed something other than cement walls and a bony shoulder to shore up her spirit. She closed her eyes to dream.

“I told you I’d lock you up.” She laughed as John wiggled, trying to get free.

“J-Joss.” He laughed, blue eyes bright in a way that she’d simply never seen on him before. “Come on, let me go.”

“Hmm, let me think-” A finger on her lip, her hip cocked theatrically as she held the keys up and just out of his reach. “No, John.” She crawled up his body. Leaving a kiss on each of the scars that told his story, before she was right where she wanted to be. Kneeling over him, her hands balled in the sheets above his shoulders, her knees digging into the blankets on either side of his hips. She didn’t let any of her body touch any of his except where she nuzzled into his face. “I think I finally have you right where I want you.”

“Are you sure Joss?” John breathed, arching just the slightest, rubbing against her just enough to tempt. She bit down on her lip as he used his body as a weapon in an entirely different way than she was used to. He was dangerous.

She leaned back and settled her weight on his abs, just high enough to be a tease. She grinned at the sound of his groan and the look of amused pain on his face. There was no way that John hadn’t already gotten out of those handcuffs. Between his knowledge as a former operative and his own instincts to be prepared to defend at any moment, those cuffs weren’t worth a thought. But the fact that John lay back on her bed and pretended to still be tied to her furniture, for her? That made her shiver. Made her feel powerful, made her feel good.

Like she could go anything.

Joss didn’t force a smile. Or pretend to enjoy a meal. She didn’t endure a lackluster time for the fleeting pleasure of a touch that never fulfilled. She wasn’t distracted by thoughts of work, or worries about Taylor. She didn’t have to close her eyes and drawn on a fantasy; he was one. He was a dream. He felt good underneath her, he felt strong.

More than that, they felt good together, like they belonged. Joss leaned down to feel smooth skin and hard muscles and prayed the dream didn’t end.

She came to strapped into a chair in front of a table situated in the middle of the warehouse and the world was spinning. Joss had the helpless thought that she really didn’t want to get used to waking up this way. Though this time it was less about the being-alive-when-she-shouldn’t-be and more someone-slammed-their-weapon-into-her-head, neither of which were fun. But she suddenly understood all those times John had just shrugged something off, because there was only so much give-a-damn in a body and Joss had just about run out.

A familiar man sat on the other side of the table. Taking his time eating a bowl of something that looked like pudding. Smelt like it too when he rounded the small table, repositioning himself.

“You gave my men quite the headache, Detective Carter.” Arogant in a way that made Carter’s teeth clench, the man sitting across from her was disgusting. Wheat blond hair and brown eyes with straight teeth and an insincere smile, he could’ve stepped off a recruitment poster. Or more likely, a campaign trail. He licked his spoon and set it back in the bowl, handing it off to one of the goons surrounding him.

“I’m sure they’ll survive, Senator Pierce.” The sharp look he shot her was accessing and a little more physical than Joss wanted to even think about. Because sex, to men like Pierce, was rarely about getting off.

“You’re a smart woman, Detective.” He leaned closer, a flick of his eyes and it was all Carter could do not to try gouging his eyes out. “You know how this game is played.” His pale hand caressed her face, running the line of jaw and the arch of her neck. She shivered, she’d placed herself vulnerable in a lot of different ways over the years for her job. But never had she been held vulnerable, never had she been forced here and held there. And as disgusting as she felt about it, all she could do was sit as far back as possible and try to envision the mass murder and chaos one man in New York might do if he came across her situation.

Joss actually held back a snort, if John saw this she’d be lucky to piece together enough to make an id, let alone arrest one of them.

“I could give you everything. I could set you up with a new identity, get you custody of your son, give you a new purpose!” Pierce crooned. “Hell, some might say you owe me. I did after all, give you a second chance at life!”

“And then chained me up and beat me up some, oh I’m so greatful Pierce.”

“Oh, don’t be like that Sweetheart. Here I am offering you back your life, all you have to do is say ‘yes’ and open all the little trinkets we have in the box.” Pierce smiled charmingly, at least he probably thought it was charmingly. “Mmm? What do you say?”

Joss smiled and leaned forward, catching the Senator’s eye and drawing him in. “Go to hell.” With force she cracked her head against the sleazeball’s. She got a crack to the face with the butt of a semi-automatic, but it was worth it, the blood dripping down his nose wasn’t just hers.

Pierce gave a sneer from his sprawl across the cement. He jerked his head, a cue she guessed, as one of her watchdogs behind her left.

Two of Pierce’s grunts returned with one of the female hostages. She sobbed and cried as they practically hauled her in between Pierce and Joss. She wouldn’t stand on her own so they held her up with a hand wrapped around her biceps and gun pressed against her temple. Her frightened eyes burrowed into Joss’s own. She panicked as the man holding her ground the gun just a little harder into her skull.

“The problem with you Joss, can I call you Joss?” The currupt Senator asked as though remembering his manners. “The problem Joss is that you have the type of ATA gene strength that is one in a billion. Your cousin Aiden didn’t have a tenth the strength of gene that you have, and to be honest,” He cast his gaze back to the kidnap victims in the pen. “None of our other … guests, have a tenth of your power either.” Pierce touched the tip of one finger to his lips as the other hand lightly held the safe box from yesterday propped against his hip.

“Which puts me in a dilemma. I could shoot you, to punish you, then bring you back to do this all over again, but I’ve got the feeling you’re a stubborn one Joss. You won’t back down easy.” He placed the device on the table and leaned across. “And unfortunately for me, the pain of the sarcophagus diminishes with repeated use. So, you’d just get used to it. I could always kill you and leave you dead, but I do need you, so that’s not going to work.” The finger went back to his lips as he propped a hip against the table. “I could also call in a team to kidnap your son, bring him in to modulate your behavior; but there are at least three different groups that have made it their life’s goal to watch over your son: the Association of the Survivors of Police Officers looks in on your son fairly regularly, the Italian Mafia headed by Elias has already made moves to show the entire island that hurting Joss Carter’s kid is unacceptable, and then there is the infamous Man in the Suit, who regularly loses my men like they were untrained pre-schoolers. Which is really just insulting.”

“So no, rest easy Joss,” Pierce said with a gentle grin, eyes hiding a dangerous spark. “You’re son’s safe.”

At his nod one of the grunts holding the female hostage pulled the trigger to his weapon and blew out the young woman’s brain.

Joss gasped, eyes wide but uncomprehending, as pieces of the other hostage’s blood and skull flew through the air. The woman’s panic at her fate still trembled through the NYPD Detective, showing in her horrified gaze pinned on Pierce.

“Now, Joss.” He slid the safe box across the table like he wasn’t covered in blood and brain matter. “Let’s talk about this box. You said it needs a code?”

Corporal Swift blinked at the number on his computer screen. Nine digits strung along with dashes: 245-91-1954. It looked like a social security number, which wasn’t any of his business. He just watched moniters. He didn’t ask questions, didn’t talk about his job or any of the freaky shit he saw because of his job. He adhered to the letter and spirit of his non-disclosure agreement like it was a document burnt into his bones.

But….

He was the only one that used his desk. The only computer in the Security Bay that wasn’t being used to play solitare or stream unauthorized blogs. He did exactly his job, but he knew enough about other people’s jobs to know some crazy shit happened under the mountain. And maybe…

No, Swift turned away from the computer screen. It was a test. He didn’t know what they were testing, maybe adherence to the rules or following protocol, but he was going to follow the rules. But the number remained on the monitor of his computer and whenever he attempted to minimize or exit out of the window, it popped up again. Again and again and again, the number remained on the screen. For over four hours Corporal Swift attempted to just do his job. But that number didn’t go away and by the end of shift the digits had been lasered onto the surface of his eyes. He wasn’t going to be able to forget that number.

As he walked out the door to go back to his bunk the airman had one startling thought: What if it wasn’t a test? Cheyenne Mountain was home to some really weird and strange stuff. In case it wasn’t just a drill to insure he adhered to his non-disclosure agreement, he needed to tell someone.

Corporal Swift knocked lightly on the door to his supervisor’s cubicle. “Sargeant McGemmins, Sir?” The blond dude was from California and it showed, he was competent and efficent at his job, but he was still the most relaxed of the Security supervisors and Swift always thanked his lucky stars that in the four years since he started at Cheyenne Mountain he’d never been rotated off the Sargeant’s duty roster. “I wanted you to know, Sir, that there seems to be a problem with my computer, Sir. Nothing that kept me from excerizing the appropriate vigilance or the use of the equipment to maintain base security,” The Corporal hastened to explain when McGemmins went to interupt. “But this number popped onto a command prompt and while software worked around the window, I was unable to minimize or close the command prompt window, Sir.”

Sargeant McGemmins took the post-it note from the Security Sargeant’s hands. Nine digits seperated into three groups by two dashes. A group of three numbers, a dash, a group of two numbers, a second dash, and a final group of three numbers. McGemmins couldn’t help but think it looked like a social security number.

“How did we get this intel, again?” Decked out in combat gear General O’Neill wiped his brow before pushing the bonaculars back into place.

Magnified 7x the image he saw was the movement of guards and traitors as the teams certified through the SGC, loyal only to the SGC, prepared to take down the Trust.

“We recieved a suspicious tip that implicated Senator Pierce in activities concerning the Trust.” Cam murmured, his fingers ticking against his holstered weapon. “I’ve had a team on the Senator for a couple weeks and in that time he’s met with several operatives of the Trust and has orchastrated the change of base at least once.”

“That explains why we could never track down their base,” Danny mumble into the dirt on the otherside of the general. “He kept moving it.”

The General thought on the situation, an unknown number of hostages contained in a pen within a warehouse guarded by an unknown number of enemy combatents, without knowledge of armament. Sounded like fun.

“We have solid proof against the Senator?”

“Absolute chain of command,” Cam assured. “We’re working with Col Raez now that he’s been read in on the program; he has the case pinned and Justice Pence has signed off on the warrant for arrest.”

Jack synced his watch. “I want it clean and clear in thirty minutes. Get to it.”

He watched as Cam slid down the small hillside to go issue orders, it had been a hard battle to give up front command when Hammond had promoted him. Jack had never wanted more than to be the first one in and the last one out, but he watched men he knew and had grown as soldiers and leaders and he knew they would make him proud.

Cam arranged the teams surrounding the warehouse at each of the four entrances to the warehouses. Prepared for combat, each Marine knew what was at stake; their reputation off world, the lives of several hostages, and the pride of General O’Neill.

Those Marines went in with a bad attitude, guns blazing. Ready to be the heroes one more time.

Something made Joss sit up. With her face swollen from her latest attempt at escaping she couldn’t see anything. Just one dark blur of shadows and vague shapes. But from one moment to the next something changed.

The others in the pen still cried, still shivered, still prayed for salvation. It wasn’t them.

The henchmen continued to work. She could hear the shuffle and grunt of moving crates. The light murmur of voices in the background; she had noticed several days ago the constant turn over of electronic equipment. They were trying to crack something there. Hadn’t succeeded yet from the continued typing, so it wasn’t them.

But something wasn’t right; there was something in the air.

Jack entered the warehouse after confirmation of mission completion to oversee clean up. He liked what he saw as he meandered over to the first aid station Dr. Fraiser had arranged. In another corner of the warehouse Cam was organizing the removal and transport of the stolen artifacts back to the mountain. Briefly he overheard the Air Force Colonel arguing with someone over storage space under Cheyenne Mountain.

“How’re the hostages, Janet?”

“Malnurished, sleep deprived, and I’ll predict that most will suffer at least short term PTSD symptoms from this nightmare.” The veteran doctor shrugged lightly, pocketing her pen light, “Between Doctor Lam and I, I suspect we’ll be writing a lot of perscriptions for Xanax in the coming days.”

“But no serious physical trauma?” Jack arched a brow, “I expected a lot more evidence of violence.”

“They picked their victims well,” the woman sitting on the table pipped in. Her face was covered in a motley collection of bruises and swelling, there was a bandage on her arm, and her voice cracked like she’d gone a long time without speaking, or too long screaming. “These were the relatives of soldiers: sisters and brothers, mothers, wives, and cousins; one boyfriend. Not people know for being violent or aggressive, or even prone to conflict.”

“Except for you it seems?” The general teased her lightly, “You put a fight?”

The woman curled cut lips, waving a caramel colored hand of clearly broken fingers. “More than one.”

“Yeah,” Janet snorted, “didn’t know when to quit did you?” the base doctor whistled for one of the corpsman. “Help get her situated in one of the jumpers, she’s to go straight to the infirmary. I’ve got work to do if you ever want to be able t use that hand again.”

“Yeah, that might be nice.” The patient replied, listing lightly as she eased off the table. “Might be hard to work with only one hand.”

Janet smiled, “So, miss?”

“Carter,” The cracked lips croaked, “Det. Joss Carter, NYPD, but if you look me up I’ll be dead. We were all dead.”

“Oh, that explains so much.” Cam murmured coming up beside the General, “All the other hostages were pretty surprised to see us, said they ‘weren’t expecting anyone’.”

“Wait!” Jack called out as the corpsman turned to walk the former detective away. “You’re that cop that battled for Aiden Ford’s posthumously declared charges.”

Joss stared at the general standing before her. She was tired, cold, and hurting. He was nearly pristine and gave off the vibe that he was fairly used to being the good guy. “And I knew something hinky was going on.”

“Hinky?” The General blinked. Joss gestured with a broken hand to the marines awaiting command, the handcuffed Trust members, the dozen other hostages, and the warehouse full of alien technology.

“Yeah, she’s got you there Jack.” Came a voice from behind the General. He’d been carefully analyzing the alien artifects the last time Carter had managed to make out shapes from the shadows her eyes were giving her. “You can’t really argue with this.”

He repeated her gesture encompassing all of the stuff left for processing and inventory. “Though, the Diplomatic Corps will be happy to see some of the missing stuff everyone’s been haranging us for.”

“Oh, come on! We’re the good guys here!” Jack barely surpressing the urge to stomp his foot.

Danny arched a brow, “And what do we tell civilians we do?”

Jack winced, “Classified.”

“Mmm,” Danny nodded, “And how are we paid for it?”

Jack rubbed his neck, feeling the tension coiling just beneath his skin. “Also classified.”

“Yep, and what do we tell the media about this operation? About what was going on? Who was perpetrating it? What they were stealing?” Danny ticked off a finger for each of the points he was asking about.

Jack hung his head, “Classified.”

“Good.” Danny nodded decisively. “So what exactly about this situation isn’t hinky?”

At that point Joss had to laugh. It was a different relationship, different context, different lies. But for just a moment she didn’t see a General and his surprisingly non-conformist underling, instead she was back in the safe house/loft listening to Harold nag John about the ethics involved in shooting people when it wasn’t necessary.

She leaned heavily against the corpsman’s shoulder and fought back tears. Joss didn’t knwo what was going to happen. She wasn’t sure she even know how to deal with what had happened and the detective was fairly certain she was never going to see her family again. Joss knew she was finally safe, but as she leaked moisture from her tear ducts, the detective reconed that she might never feel safe again.

They rolled her on a gurney from the aircraft hanger to the base infirmary. She was allowed to gingerly shift herself from the gurney to the infirmary bed without the requirement of a board and a four man team, but the staff watched her like a hawk. They still weren’t convinced she was as healthy as she told them. Though, she wasn’t convinced she was as healthy as she claimed to be. Which was part of the reason she was lying down on an infirmary bed thinking about requesting painkillers instead of demanding to know the consequences of her recent ‘vacation’.

Joss wanted sleep, food that didn’t taste like gruel, a bath, and painkillers. Just not necessarily in that order. What she got instead was the General flopping onto the bed beside her.

“I’ve only got a minute before Janet-”

“No. Absolutely not, Jack.” The brunette doctor, still in fatigues scowled at her superior officer. “I don’t care what it is you need to know or, think you need to tell my patient. It can wait until tomorrow.”

“Janet-” the man began.

“No.” She stood toe to toe with him, not caring about the eight inch height difference or the fact that the shiny pieces of metal on his uniform meant that he should be able to do anything he wanted. “It would be an ethical violation for me to standby while you sold snake oil to my patient.” Her glare intensified, “My patient cannot, at this moment in time, make any sound decions. None of them can, so go yell at people in Washington;” she shooed him out of the infirmary, “and leave my patients alone!”

Carter wasn’t released the next day. In fact it didn’t look like she’d be released in the coming week either. Dr. Fraiser was less than inclined to release a partially disabled, at least temporarily, patient without a strong support system in place. Carter couldn’t argue it, right now she had no one. What did happen the day after her rescue was that a certain base commander snuck his way into her partitioned gurney.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to be here.”

“I go a lot of places I’m not supposed to.” Joss didn’t have to open her eyes to see the smirk in the general’s voice, and she didn’t have to open them to roll her eyes at him either.

“Even under those under the watch of your Chief Medical Officer; because they tend to be the scariest.” The bed inclined up.

“Okay, so I don’t normally cross Fraiser,” The General shrugged. “She’s a scary woman.”

“Here’s the thing.” He says from where he’s perched on the gurney to her right. Ignoring the glare of the head nurse who only just noticed he was there. “You died. There’s no if, and, or but, about it. There’s a ridiculous amount of paperwork in John Hopkins about the trauma doctors, paramedics, and emergency room nurses’ heroic life saving efforts. Not to mention the fact that it looked like almost the entire city of Manhattan turned out for your funeral.”

Joss was sick with the amount of detail he was putting into his clarification for her. To think about the damage done to her son, burying his mother before he was out of school. Her Nana must be devastated, not to mention …

Not to mention John.

“So, you can’t go back to your old life.” Jack swung his legs lightly, like a child. “But I can give you a new one. A new life, a new house, a chance to have your family again. A bit like witness protection, there’s just this little caveat about employment at Stargate Command. What would you do to be able to see your son again?” The older man paused, “To hold him? Kiss him? Maybe even yell or shout at him? When faced with a lifetime he wouldn’t be a part of.”

To be able to see and touch and hug and kiss her son again, just like the General said. To here his annoyed irritation when she restricted his computer usage, or gave him a curfew. When she wanted him to do his chores. When she argued over his homework with him. To do that once more she’d do anything.

“Anything.”

“Careful,” The General said, smile still in place even as shadows lingered behind his eyes. “Don’t want that to get around.”

It didn’t take long for her new paperwork to show up, in fact it was there surprisingly fast. Hand delivered by a Dr. Jackson, technically the ranking civilian on the base.

“I wanted to.” Was his response when she asked why he had delivered it. “I try to meet all the ‘rehab’ patients we get. They tend to be much more interesting than the greenhorn jarheads.”

“How did you get all this?”

“You’d be surprised how frequently we do this. It’s pretty routine by now.” Dr. Jackson said off hand.

“Yeah,” She stared at the linguist. “That’s not really encouraging.”

Regardless, Joss couldn’t really argue with that. In the package supplied was just about every document she’d need to get started in a place: birth certificate and social security cards for herself, her son, and her Nana. Bank cards and records of employment, apparently she had been a detective previously and had been swayed back into the military by a rank jump and some pretty spectacular benefits, hired to be military police on a base with a security leak.

“Is this serious?”

“Yeah,” Dr. Jackson nodded, “I try to get each ‘rehab’ the best benefits possible. Start from the gate with a debt to the program.”

“No,” Joss shook the employment paper at the man. “The Security leak! Is that for real, because that should have been handled long before I got here.”

“Oh,” He pushed his glasses back into place with a single finger. “Yes, unfortunately the leak is real, but we don’t have much to go on. We’ve tried and implemented a number of Security changes, but it continues to happen.”

“Why didn’t you lock down the base?”

A blush rose over the doctor’s cheeks. “We didn’t notice them at first.”

Joss raised one brow, “You didn’t notice highly valuable and rare artifacts go missing?”

He shrugged, “Nothing is ever as organized as it could be. Rare Ancient Alteran artifacts leaning up against old Goul’d weaponry. Gifts next to loot. It wasn’t until we went looking for something that we realized the store rooms had been raided.”

And didn’t that just say soo much about the state of affairs under the Mountain.

 

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